Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sbarros quietly build another Italian chain

The Sbarro family must have tomato sauce running through its veins. Seven years after selling its namesake pizzerias to a private-equity firm, the clan is chain-building again.

Its new Italian growth vehicle is Matteo’s, a small full-service chain in the family’s backyard of Long Island, NY. Full disclosure: As a Long Islander myself, I’ve frequented the Matteo’s outlets for years. It’s good, solid Italian fare, with a menu devoted to the classics. The Sbarros apparently bought a controlling interest in the family-style concept a few years ago from New York’s Sorrentino family.

Now the collaboration has 10 Matteo’s restaurants in operation, including three in Florida. A fourth is under development in Orlando, according to a report today on the website of The Orlando Business Journal.

That story notes that Matteo’s isn’t the Sbarro family’s lone restaurant venture. Years ago the second and third generations diversified into the steakhouse business as co-owners of Rothman’s, Long Island’s version of the Morton’s brand (which, curiously, was headquartered on Long Island at the time—a few blocks from an original Matteo’s), and as operator of the far more casual Boulder Creek Steakhouses. They eventually sold the Boulder Creeks but continued to build Rothman’s outlets.

The first outside of New York will be built in Orlando near the Matteo’s, according to the Business Journal report.

Meanwhile, the largely mall-based Sbarro pizza chain finished 2009 with about 785 units, after shuttering more than 100 because of the downturn in shopping and airport traffic, according to QSR magazine.

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